We talk about gum disease a lot. We have to, if only because up to 80% of all adults have it, whether they know it or not. More, it’s linked to a host of other health issues, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
No thanks, right?
But the flip side of that mouth-body connection means that periodontal treatment has a vast range of benefits, not least of which is helping folks better manage their chronic conditions and enjoy a more healthy and vibrant lifestyle.
One of the keys is simply keeping up with your regular dental visits for periodontal care. According to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, patients with chronic or aggressive gum disease who had consistent perio therapy for more than a couple years had healthier gum tissues. The pockets between teeth and gums were shallower, and there was significantly less bleeding upon probing. (Deep pockets and bleeding gums are both signs of advancing periodontal disease.)
The longer the time, the more frequent the recall visits, and the more was spent during the maintenance phase, the greater was the reduction.
Yep, just like your car and home, your teeth and gums need regular maintenance. Imagine telling your mechanics not to look under the hood, just because you’re afraid of what they might discover. Or think about coming home after a windstorm to find a roof shingle or three in the driveway.
Do you really want to take the “wait and see” approach?
We’ll take it a step further, though, and talk money. Just like ignoring that leaky roof until collected water breaks through your ceiling, putting off dental care until problems become unmanageable is going to cost you in the long run, in terms of both health and your money.
Although oral healthcare is finally getting recognized as a “gateway to general health and well-being,” as one 2010 paper in Public Health Reports put it, caries (tooth decay) and periodontal disease remain a silent epidemic in America, leading to a host of challenges extending well beyond overall health.
Unknown to many are the complications associated with untreated dental caries and periodontal disease. If left untreated, they may cause pain, dysfunction, poor appearance, loss of self-esteem, absence from school or work, and difficulty concentrating on daily tasks.
This comes as a cost to your bank account, as well.
Even if some of the care that is forgone because of cost is elective, results from a number of other studies suggest that adults are suffering serious consequences from not receiving dental care because of cost. Hospital emergency department visits for dental conditions have doubled over the past decade, with young adults and low-income adults having the highest visit rates. Nonelderly adults have the highest incidence of untreated cavities of any age group. Nearly one in three young adults reported having oral health issues so severe that they affected the respondent’s ability to interview for a job. Avoiding needed dental care could also adversely affect health outcomes beyond the mouth and contribute to increased health care costs among older Americans with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
And if folks do end up at the emergency room as a last resort due to dental issues? Very few emergency rooms are staffed with dentists, so patients end up going home with a prescription for antibiotics or pain pills and are told to visit a dentist. So not only is the ER expensive, the problem hasn’t even been solved yet!
For as we noted above, regular periodontal care can benefit overall health. Research suggests it may reduce blood pressure, for instance, and inhibit inflammation, and help those with chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease better manage their symptoms.
The good news? Gum disease is preventable – and prevention is the most cost-effective approach to health care. And if it does arise? Treatment is simple, straightforward, and smart – for now and for the long term.